Tuesday, December 21, 2010

Assemble, Assembling, Assembled

One of the shortcomings of my previous shop was the lack of the space  for an outfeed and assembly table.  I needed a solid work surface that served three purposes:  a flat surface to assemble projects, increase the capacity of my tablesaw cart, and increase the organized storage of my shop.

I looked over the design  Marc @ thewoodwhisperer.com had refined from David Marks, and its a great simple and useful table after which I modeled my table.

- 4' x 4' torsion box top with a replaceable hardboard skin.
- oak edgebanding for hard wearing edges
- 4" double locking casters for moving around
- all drawer storage below the surface. mounted on full-extension slides
- Table saw outfeed height,

Enjoy the pics:

Friday, November 19, 2010

Walnut Slab Coffee Table Part 3

Finish: Polymerized tung oil, modified tung oil/varnish.
Material: Live Edge Walnut Slab Top, Walnut Legs/Stretcher

Monday, November 15, 2010

Walnut Slab Coffee Table Part 2

With the slab cut to final dimension, I milled up some legs using some 4/4 material , matching grain and figure as best  I could  for a nice glue-up.

Dry fitting the legs in position I found a rough golden rule ratio to the negative space to be most suited for the design.

Studying the original design you will notice what appears to be either screws covered by plugs, dowels or perhaps multiple tenons joining the top and legs.  The intent was not to duplicate but pay respect, and as such I chose the joinery accordingly. Using 4 loose tenons, in this case the Festool Domino, I created 4 mortises in the end-grain of each leg and transferred the locations to the top.

Before glue up I tackled the stretcher bar joining the two legs near the bottom.  This is an oval shaped bar that fits in the center. Choosing a nice piece of straight stock, I milled the stretcher to the desired thickness and moved on to the router table to apply the profile desired.

With some final sanding, the result was a very smooth and well shaped stretcher; all we had left was making the mating socket in each of the legs.

Using a cutoff from cutting the stretcher to length I was able to trace out the socket and match the radius to a forstner bit. With the hole drilled out, the bandsaw finishes the task.

It was time for glue up.

Sunday, October 31, 2010

Walnut Slab Coffee Table Part 1

    I got the chance recently to work in a very special woodworking shop before moving from Brooklyn.  I was allowed to build a personal project during a 3 month apprenticeship.

    Before I continue I would like to give a very special thanks to Nathan Shellkopf, the owner of SouthSlope Woodworks. I credit him with singlehandedly changing the way I perceive the art of wood. Without his generosity this project would not have been possible.  The commissions that passed through his shop in the short time I was there, were simply inspiring and his work speaks for itself.

A few months ago, I was asked if I could produce a coffee table for my brother's new apartment and accepted the challenge happily.  I had an appetite for walnut that has proven unquenchable; I thought what better way to pay respect to the material then to pay homage to George Nakashima and build a piece in his timeless style.

My inspiration was a table I found featured in the online inventory of Moderne Gallery located in Philadelphia:

I found the beauty of this piece to be in its understated lines, simple construction and concentration on the qualities of the material.

Nate, outdid himself and sourced an exquisite slab to form the top.

The slab measured roughly 25" x 55" x 2.25" and the first step was to dress the faces mostly flat.  I say mostly because I did not find it necessary to get it that precise.

We took the fence off the 16" jointer and got the bottom flat enough to move on to the planer. The planer surfaced the slab beautifully and with ease, with a capacity of 25.5" in width and powered by a 10hp motor this was not surprising.

As with any live edge material, there is always some finessing of the edges to remove loose material where bark appears. This was accomplished using a brass brush and a drawknife.

I must stress that my goal was to manipulate the slab as little as possible.

Once the slab was dressed I used a track saw to square the edges to the centerline of the slab:

When dealing with material of this size and with no straight edge to reference, a track saw is the right tool. Of course a regular circular saw and sawboard will also accomplish the task aptly.

Stay tuned.

Wednesday, June 16, 2010

Walnut Blanket Chest Part 5

The blanket chest is finished and delivered.

2 Coats of Watco Medium Walnut, and 1 Coat Watco Natural wet sanded with 600 grit.

Tuesday, June 15, 2010

Walnut Blanket Chest Part 4

    There are a number of interesting details in this chest that is for the most part a big box; my favorite among them is the thumbnail molding that appears on the lid of both the chest and till.

It begins with a 1/8" rabbet cut along the front and side edges of the lid.  Traditionally cut with a rabbet plane, a router will perform the task quite aptly.

With the rabbet cut, I used a round object to mark the remaining radius of the molding on all corners.  At this point I grabbed a low angle block plane and started planing the edge of the profile by hand.  I like the irregularity of the result and the less than perfect symmetry of the radius.  I work by establishing a chamfer and refine the edge with successive passes,.

Here are the results:

With the lid finished, I cut the cleats and added a chamfer on the ends of each one:

With the cleats chamfered, a few swipes with the smoothing plane, and we are ready to mount them to the lid:


    If there is ever a time that I slow down and get all my ducks lined up in a row before continuing it is attaching hinges.  Perhaps I still haven't done enough hinges but I still get in trouble now and then.  In order to match the  style of the chest and keep costs reasonable I chose a un-equal strap hinge from leevalley labeled "A" on this page :(http://www.leevalley.com/US/hardware/page.aspx?p=41912&cat=3,41241,41262&ap=1).  This is a great looking hinge that has a worn patina.

There is a hitch however, you have to bend it yourself, of course that is probably its strength as well.

Its not all that difficult but there are a few gotchas:

     -Be aware that you must account for the thickness of the leaf when marking where you want the bend to start. In this case the leaf was 1/16" thick so I started the bend 1/8" ahead of where it was to end.
    - Use a hammer and metal vise,
    - The closer to 90 deg. the bend, the better the fit. You want a nice square, crisp bend.
    -Try and use double stick tape to "test drive" the hinge action, making sure it does not bind and there is enough clearance.  You can always make the hinge mortises deeper, but you will have to shim to make them shallower.

Bend the hinges by clamping in the vise, using your hands to start and finish with a hammer.

Mark your mortise locations using a marking knife.  In this case the depth of the mortise was for the thickness of the leaf and the barrel.  In reality this turned out to be too deep and I feel the barrel should stick up past back's edge by a tad. The mortises sides are establishing using a Razor Saw and a sharp chisel is used to pare down to the bottom. Take your time, there are no second chances without shimming.


According to the Chris Schwarz there is an old furniture maker's dimension to determine the distance between the hinges.  You take the length of the lid and divide it by 2 and that is the distance the hinge's centerline must be apart. I spaced this hinge, 2 hinge widths from the side and since the lid was 40" wide, the other hinge 20" over. This worked perfectly for me, especially given that with this type of chest, because of the till's lid, it cannot be mounted symmetrically.

Sunday, June 6, 2010

Walnut Blanket Chest Part 3

Well last we spoke, I had just finished routing the half-circle on the sides of the chest.  The project has thankfully come a long way since then.

Staying true to the time period, these chests were put together very simply.The joinery consists of rabbets and dadoes.  While this was commonly done with planes in the 18th century, and it would certainly still be a fantastic hand tool project,  a router does a great job at this kind of joinery.

stopped dadoes for the till:

I use a clamp guide and a plunge router, and cut these dados/grooves in 2 passes

It helps to always mark cuts like these and then go back with a marking knife and sever the fibers. This way the router bit will leave a clean edge as it clears out the waste.

With all the joinery cut and the parts for the till fitted I was itching to assemble. Now generally its not a big deal to finish the inside of a box after you have put it together, but the charm of getting finish in tight corners fades after a few projects.

So,  I fired up the compressor, hooked up a spray-gun and coated the inside with shellac.  I like to shoot a few thin 1# cut coats and sand down any raised grain.  With a smooth surface prepped, I will step up to a 2# cut and put down a nice even coat or two.

Once I had the inside pre-finished, it was time to nail it all together. Yes I did say nail, and no it will not involve a brad nailer.  Good old fashioned cut-nails and hammer will do.

If you need a high-tech article on this low tech joinery, Chris Schwarz does a brilliant job of explaining:

Monday, May 10, 2010

Walnut Blanket Chest Part 2

     There is something to be said for prepping materials for a project.  I think that when I first started working, I never paid it much mind.  It was another step in the process of completing a piece.  After you have a few projects under your belt you start to ask yourself why the joinery did not work, the finish gave you problems, or you could not get all the gaps to close in glue-up.  I will wager 90% of the time you have already lost the battle before the war has begun, just in the way you prepared all your materials.

    Well this blanket chest has been an exercise in taking my time with the materials.  The parts in the chest are made from 2 board glue-ups.  Most of the parts are 16-20" wide and were prepared using a mix of hand and power tools.  The stock came in as 4/4 rough, hand planed on one side and run through a planer.  Once planed to thickness, I used a handplane to edge joint the boards with a slight spring for a tight seam.  Even with all these precautions, I still had many parts with a good amount of cupping.  I guess I cut it too thin, trying to dress 4/4 boards rough out to 3/4.  Next time I would chose 5/4, it is just too close a call if the stock is not mostly flat.  With that said, you make do and if that means having to rip stock apart and re-glue it than so be it.

In large casework I like to start with the sides, because they handle much of the joinery and give you a good reference for all the other pieces.  These side members have a stopped cut on one end and an arched cut out on the bottom for the piece.   The stopped cut provides a place for front of the chest to fit, mating with the rabbet of the front.

Using the tablesaw, I laid a piece of tape to show where the blade exited so that I knew where to stop.

With this kind of cut, there is a fair amount of clean up to do, but its actually quite enjoyable and easily done.

With the stopped cut done, I ran the dado for the bottom in each side, and moved on to the half-circle for the feet.  Now I have a steady hand and could have cut the pattern out by hand using a jig saw, but opted for a more repeatable method. I cut a piece of ply to the same width as the side panel, laid out the circle and cut it once by hand with the jigsaw as precisely as I could.  Using this pattern I rough cut the panels and finished the cut using a flush trim bit in the router table.

more to come...

Thursday, May 6, 2010

Walnut Blanket Chest Part 1

            Whenever I get asked what I do, I respond that I am woodworker.  What follows is usually a mix of confusion, appreciation, and curiosity.  Once the curiosity has settled, people will generally talk about their experience with furniture or other woodworkers.The experience never loses its charm and I find people's interest in the craft inspiring.  I was having a similar conversation with a couple recently settling into Brooklyn, when they mentioned a desire for a chest to store linens.

I surveyed a few blanket chest designs and presented them with 2 options, and here is what we agreed upon:

For those SU inclined folks the model can be viewed and downloaded here:


along with the option that was not chosen: (better sharpen your chisels and put your "big boy" pants on for this one)

I would love to here any feedback on the models, especially if someone decides to build from them.

The design is based on a fantastic article from finewoodworking, as a handtool exercise project (Issue #134, p. 48)

This is a classic 18th century six-board blanket chest design.  The client has requested a dark tone, and I believe walnut will fit the bill.  A simple oil and varnish finish for the exterior with a shellac interior.